The Trembling of the Concept: The Material Genesis of Living Being in Hegel's Realphilosophie

Pli 23 (2012)
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Although Hegel's absolute idealism is often presented as a solipsistically self-grounding, the Realphilosophie offers us an another image of Hegel which not only challenges standard interpretations, but more importantly gives us valuable resources to rethink living being. The zero-level determinacy of nature as “the idea in its otherness” has two consequences. Firstly, the starting point of any philosophy of nature must be a realism, insofar as nature's material constitution shows itself as unthought-like. Secondly, if idealism is to be viable, it must prove itself to be a result of nature's immanent auto-development. Taking as my guide the category of “trembling” (Erzittern) and exploring its intimate connection with the emergent ideality of bodies producing sound, the chemical process and the voice of animals, I aim to show how the Realphilosophie is a reconstruction of the painful odyssey of the material genesis of the autopoietic self-referentiality of the concept as it is paradoxically begotten, by immaculate conception, in the pure extimacy of nature. The dialectics of nature is not a naturephilosophical theory of material being as implicit, self-unfolding productivity which necessarily leads to life via an intrinsic teleology, but rather an account of the contingent material emergence of unpredictable kinds of ontological determinacies from within the immanent field of mechanical nature. Only a naturalized idealism/idealized naturalism is capable of arguing for the ontological irreducibility of living being while simulta eously articulating its dependence upon different scientific domains which form its ontogenetic ground. It avoids both eliminative materialism and naïve vitalism.



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Joseph Carew
McGill University (PhD)

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